“Mobile money” has revolutionized access to financial services in Kenya. Yet, the impact of mobile phone-based banking has yet to be realized in other countries. Although Afghanistan was the second country in the world after Kenya to launch “mobile money,” uptake and usage remains low. One consistently identified impediment to the widespread adoption of “mobile money” in Afghanistan is the lack of products useful in the Afghan contexts. Users need an interface that not only allows for simple transfers between individuals, but also between bank accounts and other mobile wallets.The service needs readily available account balances and transparent fees for transactions. This project developed and piloted a novel mobile phone-based saving system (“M-Pasandaaz” or M-Savings) that enables Afghan mobile subscribers to deposit and accumulate balances in a phone-based savings account. The project piloted these accounts on a population of 1,200 employees at Roshan, Afghanistan’s largest telecommunications operator, who are broadly representative of an emerging middle class in Afghanistan. The project found that default enrollment in the mobile salary system increases participation by 40 percentage points—an effect equivalent to providing a 50% matching incentive.
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